Posts Tagged With: Baseball Park Sessions

Take your beer to Whiskeytown

WhiskeybeerJust in time for the holidays, here’s another super-cool Whiskeytown token that might be even rarer than the old Strangers Almanac whiskey bottlesWhiskeytown Beer, the entire 120-bottle run of which might already be sold out by the time you read this. It’s the work of Chapel Hill’s Starpoint Brewing, brewed by Tim Harper and Chris Baker. And if the name Tim Harper rings a bell, it should.

Long before he ever started brewing beer, Tim was an old studio hand in North Carolina for a couple of decades. Whiskeytown figures prominently on his resume. Tim engineered and Chris Stamey produced the 1996 “Baseball Park Sessions”  that got Whiskeytown its deal with Outpost Records, and those two also oversaw the remix of Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street album that was reissued in 1998.

The road to Whiskeytown Beer started a few months back when Baker come up with a beer recipe involving whiskey, wood, chocolate and coffee, and enlisted Harper to brew it at at his brewery. First came the beer, then came the name.

“Nobody could come up with one,” said Tim. “I’d already started naming beers for bands I’ve worked with over the years, like a ’74-’75 Oktoberfest for the Connells. Sooner or later, I’ll do a Let’s Active beer. Stamey-Holsapple, I don’t know how I’ll work that out. But anyway, ‘Whiskeytown’ came to me in a flash one night for this one because of the whiskey barrels. We used Jack Daniels barrels to brew it.”

Before printing up the label, Tim got approval from multiple sources in Whiskeytown’s orbit, including the photographer who took the picture of Ryan (also seen on Whiskeytown’s Wikipedia entry), Caitlin Cary, Skillet Gilmore, lawyer Josh Grier — and yes, Ryan himself.

“What Ryan said was, ‘Tim, that sounds awesome,'” Tim said with a laugh. “And we found the photographer, got his approval, too. Caitlin and Skillet and Josh, even though Josh informed me that Whiskeytown did not have a trademark for food and beverage. So I didn’t even have to ask him, but I thought it’d be rude if I didn’t. Anyway, I asked everybody and they all said yes.”

Once he was done brewing, Tim bottled 10 cases to sell and put the rest into draft kegs. Those 120 bottles are going fast, but fear not: More is on the way.

“I’m working on a new batch,” Tim says. “It should be available in a couple of months, late February or early March.”

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Revisiting the “Empty Baseball Park”

EBPRaleigh is abuzz this weekend with baseball fever, which is at its most feverish local pitch in years thanks to a high-profile three-game series between the visiting University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Both teams are ranked in the national top-10 — UNC at No. 1, State at No. 6 — and Friday night’s opening game went about how you’d expect based on their relative rankings. Two more games await, and Saturday’s first pitch is at 6:30 p.m.

But for our purposes here, we’re more interested in the setting than the teams or the games — NC State’s Doak Field, which is by the train tracks just off Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street strip. It’s a setting that helped inspire one of Ryan Adams’ choicer obscurities, “Empty Baseball Park,” a lovely little mood piece of a song that emerged in the wake of Whiskeytown’s 1996 full-length debut Faithless Street. I heard Whiskeytown play “Empty Baseball Park” a few times live that year, and it was among the handful of songs recorded as pre-Strangers Almanac demos from the “Baseball Park Sessions.” But it didn’t make it onto Strangers Almanac, eventually emerging as one of the extra bonus tracks on the 1998 Faithless Street reissue.

I’ve always liked “Empty Baseball Park,” which is steeped in a sense of townie ennui that would have fit right onto Strangers (see Chapter 8 of “Losering” for more on that). Over an easy-gliding arrangement, the lyrics tell of drinking at a favorite bar until dark before stumbling on down to the empty ballpark, pretending to heckle a non-existent game, continuing on past the record store (maybe Schoolkids?) and on to the movies (maybe the small underground indie-movie house that used to be near the old Schoolkids space on Hillsborough Street?), trying to think of something else to do. The conclusion: “Nothing’s comin’ to me.” I bet it was at least the partial inspiration for this twisted little piece of genius.

Take a listen…

ADDENDUM (4/29/13): NC state came back to win the second game of the series, but the deciding third game was rained out. And so the series ends as a 1-1 tie. Bummer…

SECOND ADDENDUM (5/26/13): The rubber match happened in the ACC Tournament, and it was one for the ages — UNC edging NC State 2-1 in 18 innings. Wow!

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